The first morning I wake up in the rental house, I am disoriented. I don’t remember where I am. Then the dogs come running into my room, bouncy and wagging tails, much too energetic for me in the morning. I let them out briefly, fill up their bowls, and make myself some tea. So far, my normal morning routine. And that’s the end of it. I have little food in the house and only one channel that comes in clearly for the morning news. I walk around the house, trying to familiarize myself with it. I check out the kitchen rental ‘package’: 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 glasses, 4 spoons, etc. Four items of anything won’t last even one day in a household of three adults. I need to start supplementing my kitchen. And the bathroom. And the laundry room. And the office. I need something to store the numerous receipts I’m collecting for later reimbursement. I don’t have pens, paper, tape, or scissors – all those miscellaneous items I usually take for granted.
Target is becoming my second home. Dishes, glasses, silverware, hair products, soaps, office supplies, and much, much more. I’ll need many more replacement items when I move back to my house, but I don’t worry about that now. I do worry, though, about money. I have received one reimbursement check for the first clothing expedition for my son and me, but now I’m using my savings and they are rapidly diminishing. Luckily, I work with some great people. When I first showed up at work after the fire, one of my colleagues pressed a generous check on me. I didn’t want to accept it, but Leigh insisted and I appreciated her caring gesture. I relented and said I’d cash it only if it was absolutely necessary. It became absolutely necessary sooner than I anticipated. My colleagues had also been taking up a collection secretly and presented me with a Visa card for $500. When I opened the card, I was flabbergasted and nearly cried, saved only by not wanting to embarrass myself at work. Their generosity helped me enormously in the first weeks.
As I go through the next few days in my new house and neighborhood, nothing feels quite like normal. I’m forced to rethink my routines and habits; it’s not comfortable. When I moved back to Austin 7 years ago, it was a fresh start – new house, new restaurants, new people, new routines – but like most people, I got into a rut all too soon. Now I have a chance to change things up, I tell myself. Take on some new routines, get rid of some bad habits, reconsider why I do what I do when I do it and how. Take time to reflect. Except it’s hard to find much down time with all the added tasks I face as a consequence of the house fire. When I come home from work, I just want to collapse on the sofa and turn on the TV. I’ve become one of those people I used to despise, but I’m too emotionally exhausted to do anything about it. Yet. Instead, I buy myself some flowers to cheer myself up as I head into the first weekend in my new home.